In Couvier v Laubernds, Docket No 272842, Michigan Court of Appeals, decided on February 5, 2008, the COA upheld almost all of a judgment entered in Chippewa County, Michigan. The husband appealed the trial court's award of significant property that he claimed as "separate property," including a farm he had owned prior to the marriage, but the COA affirmed. He also appealed the T/C's order that he pay Wife's attorney fees (about $20,000). The COA did correct one minor mistake (well, OK, not so minor: $63,574.51) mistake in the balancing award made by the trial court to equally divide the marital property between husband and wife.
The case is interesting in its discussion of and treatment of the separate property issues. For example, in this case, some of the real estate was located in France. Recognizing that a judgment in Michigan couldn't effectively transfer title to foreign real estate, the French property was awarded to H. That caused a significant shortfall in what could be awarded to W. H was ordered to pay her $127,000+, the difference between the award to H and the award to W. [In the heat of the moment, perhaps, someone overlooked the fact that this number needed to be divided by 2]. The COA corrected this error by a remand for entry of an amended judgment to reflect the correct amount.
What stands out the most is the fact that H might have done better in the trial court and certainly in the court of appeals had he actually proved some of his claims. It appears that many of H's claims related to real estate as separate property (and the exceptions that could be raised or defended), disbursements of net sale proceeds from that real estate, and alleged relinquishment by W of any interest in the French real estate. These claims simply were not supported by his evidence in court. For example, the checks H said he wrote to W in exchange for her relinquishment, (canceled checks from the bank were introduced as evidence, although its not clear by which party ), contained Memo notations indicating that they were for living expenses.
Now then, I'd think W has some claim under the prevailing party statute to recover her fees and costs on appeal. What do you think?
You can read Couvier v Laubernds here.